- Bible Verses
- What Does the Bible Say?
- Abusive Parents?
- The Reward
- Examples from the Bible
- References and Footnotes
- Other Pages to View
The fifth commandment, and the only commandment that comes with a direct promise (keeping the others inherently comes with the promise of being the chosen nation), is that we honor or father and mother. To honor is to respect or revere someone. The root Hebrew word in which is translated as "honor" in the English Bible, means to give weight to. This means that we should give weight—or authority— to our parents. There's a lot more to be thought about than simply obeying your parents, however. In this post we'll look a bit deeper into the meaning of the fifth commandment.
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
As a child, my biggest question concerning the Ten Commandments, stemmed from this commandment. I wanted to know what if my parents told me to do something wrong? Was I still supposed to obey? My Sunday school teachers were quick to say that they knew my parents wouldn't tell me to do something wrong and dismiss the question. However, my question wasn't about me and my parents in particular, but in general. God's Commandments apply to everyone, but everyone's parents aren't like mine. Furthermore, parents are human just like anyone else—they may not know what they are telling you is wrong. What about the countless white parents that told their children to be racists? Atheists who tell their children not to believe in God? Religious zealots who teach a false god and a false religion?
What Does the Bible Say?
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says that a stubborn and rebellious son that will not obey his parents should be stoned. We generally think of rebellion as a bad thing, but rebellion is simply the act of going against authority. Many verses in the Bible (in both the Old and New Testaments) confirm that God expects us to obey our parents. Even if it's wrong? I think this is one of those things God intends for us to use our common sense with. Remember even though there are several passages in the Bible where we are told to obey our parents, our parents are told not to provoke us to wrath. In addition, Matthew 19:29 says that some will have to forsake their parents. Furthermore, the commandment is to "honor" our parents not simply to obey. Honor means you respect and show respect for your parents, which generally means you obey them, but not necessarily. For instance, if your parents were atheists, that doesn't mean you can't have a respectful conversation about your beliefs. It also doesn't mean you shove God down their throats and disrespect their house by doing things your way.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
In more extreme cases, such as abusive parents (physically or otherwise), I think to honor them means to forgive—note that forgive does not mean to stick around and continue being abused! If you are a child in an abusive home I encourage you to seek help from a trusted adult (such as a teacher, coach, or guidance counselor). I think this commandment is not saying you should submit to those who are abusing their status as parent and allow yourself to be continually abused, but not to go through life hating your parents or bad mouthing them to everyone you meet.
Take for instance Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You;" she shines a light on the effect her parents' divorce had on her. In an interview I saw once, she talked about how she discussed the song with her mom before releasing it for the world to hear. I think this is exactly what God meant—I mean how embarrassing would it be to have the fact that you fell apart and were unable to take care of your child broadcast to the entire world, especially if you didn't know it was coming? She honored her parents by asking if it was ok to discuss/air their personal business before she did so. In short for parents that fall into this category, God is commanding you to retain your love for them, forgive them, and pray for their change (but safely from afar!). A great post that goes more in depth on honoring abusive parent can be found here.
To make matters more complicated, this is the only commandment that comes with an individual promise. We are told that if we honor our parents, we will have a long life. Many logical reasons can show us why this would be true. If one honors their parents, they consult and listen to their parents about their life decisions which means they have the added benefit of learning from their parents' mistakes without having to make them. Also, if you take the children who listen to their parents about, say, eating their vegetables, they will grow up healthier than those who do not. I actually know someone who was born with an illness that placed her life expectancy at a very young age. She was the primary care taker for her mother (who was disabled) for as long as I can remember; not surprisingly, she has (and is still) outliving the doctor's estimate for her life span.
Examples from the Bible
Genesis 9—Ham is the first person in the Bible that is explicitly guilty of dishonoring his father, for which his son Canaan is punished.
References and Footnotes
- Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Honor'". Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 1997
Other Pages to View